If you're calling for a new quarterback right now, you're spoiled.
Flat out. I'm not even going to couch it in a nice term. You are spoiled. The state of Wisconsin has been blessed with a great quarterback in some way shape or form since the Packers dealt a first-rounder for Brett Favre way back in 1992. I know, Badger fan doesn't equal Packer fan, but stay with me here, because we are still in a place where the single greatest quarterback rental in the history of the world is fresh in people's minds and hearts.
And right now, that's Joel Stave's biggest sin. He's not a spectacular athlete with a good enough arm to make plays with a subpar receiving crew in Seattle. He's not Russell Wilson. In fact, I'd even be willing to say that Stave might not even be an all-conference quarterback right now despite the fact the conference is pretty quarterback-poor on the national stage.
But you people are just looking for a reason to complain if you're calling for Curt Phillips or Bart Houston to start. Because guess what? Stave's a good quarterback. He's not just cromulent or serviceable or decent. He's good.
I'll lay my case out for you.
1. He's improved his completion percentage.
Last year, when those of us who were in the tank for the dimensions of offense and fun that he brought to the table, we forgot one important thing. He completed under 60 percent of his passes. 58.8 percent's not the most horrendous number, but it's Mike Glennon territory, and no one likes him. This year? The number's gone up to 63.2.
And last year? He was admittedly weak on third down. (14-for-36, 187 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions.) This year? He's already 18-for-32, with 214 yards and one touchdown against two interceptions. In fact, he's improved his yards-per-attempt from 5.19 in 2012 to 6.69 this year.
I know what you're thinking. What's the deal with the interceptions? Well, no interceptions are good. And if we're going to deep dive into this, they suffer more from an unfortunate bit of timing more than incompetence. Two were on obvious passing situations (3rd-and-7 or more) and he also threw two inside the opponent's 39-yard line, but out of the red zone.
I mean, it's logical to expect teams to defend against the pass at that point. And the advanced quarterback can make plays there. Stave's good. But even I'll admit he's not there yet.
2. While the offensive line's opening holes like nobody's business...
They're not the most athletic line of the bunch. A team that can generate some push on the defensive line will give the Badgers' line troubles, as noted by Stave's 15-for-30 against Arizona State. Which for what the Badgers generally want to do? It's damn near spectacular. I mean, Corey Clement's 36th nationally in rushing yardage with exactly one first-half carry.
But it's like Mike Tyson said: "Everybody has a plan until they get hit in the face." And when you consider the depth and quality of the receiving corps, a quarterback under pressure is a quarterback who will develop bad tendencies. Maybe the Badgers should play it a little more snug in regards to run/pass tendencies. But that's getting off-topic. That's a story for another day.
3. James White's worth.
Speaking of sins, James White's is the fact that he's the bridge between the two special talents of Montee Ball and Melvin Gordon. But there's a reason why White is as deserving of as much playing time as Gordon. It may be just as much of an indictment of the lack of emergence in the receivers as it speaks to White's talent, but the reason why we aren't seeing all sorts of brackets, rolls and 17 amounts of coverage on what Jared Abbrederis runs.
It's because White's receiving well out of the backfield. Right now, he's second place in receptions, and he's on pace to get 40 catches on the year. And I know what you're thinking. That's great. We have our second receiver.
Pause. The reason why you don't want a running back to be among the leaders in receptions is that it says there is a problem with getting the ball downfield on a consistent basis. Look at Stave's interception Saturday. The receiver ran the wrong dang route. And outside of that screen White turned into a 35-yard gain Saturday? He's been averaging eight yards a catch. He's the checkdown. The "break glass in case of emergency" guy.
You don't want to have to keep throwing it to him unless you absolutely have to. And apparently the Badgers do.
I'm not even going to go to the fact that Joel Stave's working with his third offensive coordinator in his third year. I don't need to. That's an excuse. And the numbers are there. Stave's not in the midst of some sort of shocking degeneration. Stave's consolidating his skills, and he's working well with what he has.
He's a good quarterback with roughly 10 games of college football under his belt. He can make the plays most of the pre-Wilson quarterbacks just couldn't. He may not be a superstar. He may never be a superstar. But he's a starter of a fine vintage.
And if you disagree with me? Well, you've been spoiled.
More from Bucky's 5th Quarter:
- The Monday After: Purdue vs. Wisconsin
- Wisconsin football schedule: Getting to know Ohio State
- Kielbasa Kings Episode 12: Purdue vs. Wisconsin recap; Big Ten media days with Andy Johnson
- Purdue vs. Wisconsin: Run/pass charts, observations
- B5Q interviews ESPN's Chris Connelly, reporter on Jake Dowell's emotional story
- Wisconsin vs. Purdue: Badgers use ground game to steamroll Boilermakers